In an exclusive interview for SBC News ahead of the upcoming Russian Premier League (RPL) season – which is due to start on 23 July – Yury Krasovskiy discusses how Liga Stavok’s initiatives are making the RPL “even more spectacular and exciting” for international bettors and why long-term partnerships with sports organisations are helping the operator to achieve its goals.
SBC: For those of our readers who may not be familiar with Liga Stavok, can you tell us a little bit about the company?
YK: Liga Stavok is one of the largest sports betting companies in Russia. It is one of the TOP 500 largest Russian companies and it is the leader of the National Bookmakers Rating, as well as the winner of numerous prestigious sports and betting awards.
Liga Stavok was founded in 2008 by myself and Oleg Zhuravskiy. The company is focused on promoting the local betting industry, creating a new field of sports entertainment, as well as supporting professional and amateur sports in Russia and worldwide.
The company is developing long-term partnerships with leading sports organizations to achieve its goals. It is the general partner of the Russian Premier League, the official partner of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, the official partner of the Russian national ice hockey team, the general partner of the Russian Boxing Federation, and the official sponsor of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025.
We are also an official partner of the Constellation of Good Charity Foundation named after Oleg Zhuravskiy. In partnership with the Foundation, the company implements social projects in the field of sports charity, including programs to support young athletes and sports veterans.
SBC: Liga Stavok was selected as the General Partner for the Russian Premier League. How did this partnership come about?
YK: Liga Stavok and the RPL have enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership. Since 2010, the companies have worked together in various fields related to the promotion of football. A unique project to place mobile betting stations at stadiums during Russian Premier League matches is one of those.
The organisation of such a project required serious preparation in terms of both technical, logistical support and the process of accepting bets. We were the first to start accepting live bets at stadiums. At some matches, up to 20 mobile betting stations operated, with up to 100 various Liga Stavok specialists involved.
Correspondingly, this project was continued at matches with the participation of the Russian national team as well as UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches. I am glad that my personal recommendations on marketing strategies have considerably increased the profitability of the project!
This was doubly important because we allocated 50% of our profits to the development of football for children and young people and grassroots football in Russia. Unfortunately, due to legislative restrictions, the mobile betting station project at stadiums had to be closed. Nevertheless, this project became the first large-scale project implemented by Liga Stavok and the RPL that allowed us to demonstrate our professional qualities and gave us an opportunity to achieve the company’s goals.
While establishing Liga Stavok, Oleg and I clearly understood that the bookmaker business is closely related to sport. We also understood that sport needs investment. Considerable investment. Therefore, Liga Stavok’s mission was clear to us from the beginning – to provide support for the development of sport. To me as a person who was trained to be a professional sportsman, it was also a perfect opportunity to make a personal contribution to the cause I spent my best teenage years on.
On its own initiative, Liga Stavok became the first bookmaker in Russia to exchange data with the RPL on bets at Russian Football Championship matches. This was also a logical continuation of our work on the development of both the bookmaking industry and professional sports in Russia.
Before this, Oleg and I visited FIFA headquarters where the FIFA Early Warning System accession agreement was signed. It was the first time a Russian bookmaker had been included in the global system for counteracting the illegal impact of betting on the results of sports competitions. We perfectly understood that only uncorrupted sport can develop. As only by keeping sportsmanship alive great results can be achieved.
It was also important to dispel myths on the involvement of legal bookmakers in corrupt transactions relating to football. We have deliberately chosen the path of transparency in the provision of information, transparency in interactions with various football organisations. And, as life has shown, we have not only made the right choice, but also set a good example for many of our colleagues.
Liga Stavok has supported many of RPL’s social projects. One of them was All-Russian Football Lottery. Its targeted contributions were spent on the development of football for children and young people and amateur football. The lottery provided sports equipment for several live-in schools and organized football tournaments for their students.
I would also like to mention a very popular “The Miss RPL” contest for female supporters. It should be noted that it was not a beauty contest. It was a true supporters contest. And we are delighted to see the results of such activities in our stadiums. With every year that passes, more and more female supporters are coming to stadiums, they get more closely acquainted with football, bring their kids and remain football fans for many years.
In 2017, a pivotal moment occurred at the legislative level; bookmakers were allowed to place adverts at stadiums, on sports uniforms, at match broadcasts. Following this change, the RPL arranged a tender to select a general partner for the championship in the bookmaker category. Based on a range of criteria, including the value of the contract, Liga Stavok’s offer was recognised as the best. From that moment, RPL’s and Liga Stavok’s partnership reached a new level. Liga Stavok and the RPL contract is the most valuable contract ever signed by a bookmaker with a sports federation, league or club.
The Russian Premier League general partner contract was a natural continuation of a longstanding partnership between the RPL and Liga Stavok. It gave both parties an opportunity to look to the future with confidence, and effectively plan our activities for the next 5 years.
SBC: What are your overall aims for this agreement?
YK: The common goal of the RPL and Liga Stavok is the development of football in Russia. It is a strategic goal that enables them to jointly focus on issues related to the promotion of the game. Among tactical goals are growing RPL matches attendance and regular TV audience.
We understand the importance and level of responsibility of the role allotted to the general partner of such a competition. As the country’s most important league, the Russian Premier League is a kind of a seal of approval for other national championships in various sports. The RPL is also the face of Russian sport on the international arena. Russian sport is often evaluated based on the level of organisation and staging of RPL matches, the quality of championship broadcasts and highlights, as well as on the level of sportsmanship and integrity of the tournament.
There is also a common goal of cross-engagement between RPL’s and Liga Stavok’s audiences. This means that Liga Stavok’s products are promoted among RPL’s audience and, correspondingly, the RPL as a product is promoted among Liga Stavok’s audience.
SBC: How will your collaboration with the RPL help popularise Russian football among international bettors?
YK: Currently, Liga Stavok has a license only to operate in Russia. The number of non-Russian customers is low. So it is hard to say whether the direct promotion of the RPL among foreign customers is viable. However, there is significant indirect promotion resulting from our cooperation.
Liga Stavok is the first global bookmaker company that opens RPL’s matches to the betting markets. Only Liga Stavok can offer customers bets that will not be available from other bookmakers; these bets are exclusive. Only Liga Stavok offers the largest payouts for RPL matches. All this makes Liga Stavok a kind of beacon, a landmark company in the betting world for those who want to bet on RPL matches and learn more about the RPL, so there is the indirect promotion.
In many CIS countries, particularly, in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Ukraine, the RPL is the most popular football tournament, more so than their national tournaments. This means that we are financing and developing what is the most loved tournament in many countries. The Russian tournament is also watched by fans from countries whose players play in the RPL in order to follow their national sportsmen’s success.
SBC: In what ways has Liga Stavok worked alongside the RPL to promote integrity? And how has working with the league to deploy UEFA’s Pan-European Early Warning System helped in doing this?
YK: Since 2010, Liga Stavok and the Russian Premier League have worked together with an early warning system. As a result, in recent years there has been no illegal betting on matches which could sway the result.
Also, in order to promote the ideas and principles of FAIR PLAY, in 2017, Liga Stavok and the Russian Premier League established the LIGA FAIR PLAY sports award. The winner is determined monthly based on six UEFA Fair Play criteria: positive play, respect to the opponent, respect to the referee, behaviour of the team officials, behaviour of the fans, yellow and red cards. The team that has the maximum average score for 30 rounds of the Russian Premier League season receives the final LIGA FAIR PLAY award.
SBC: From a sports perspective, how has Liga Stavok helped with the overall development of Russian football?
YK: Apart from the direct impact of sponsor’s obligations to the RPL on the development of football, Liga Stavok regularly supports the organisation in conducting various activities. For example, Liga Stavok participated in the development of a new format for determining the RPL season calendar. Liga Stavok was the representative partner of the new RPL Champion Cup. A cyber football project named CyberLeague Pro Series should also be mentioned. In April – May 2020, during the global pandemic and quarantine Liga Stavok and the Russian Premier League at breakneck speed organised a tournament that has never been done before or since.
It was done as a proper sporting event with the broadcasts on national TV, winners, etc. And it generated a lot of positive emotions that were so needed at that very difficult time for all of us. Liga Stavok has also helped the RPL to sell international rights to the tournament. And while the sports events were prohibited everywhere, sports fans all over the world could watch this fascinating tournament, as well make bets.
Attending stadiums and watching RPL matches is becoming ever more spectacular and exciting thanks to Liga Stavok’s initiatives. Interactive BTL events at stadiums are attracting a new, vibrant young audience, football fans are also going to the games with their families.
Liga Stavok’s thematic features and special programs during match broadcasts promote extra viewership and participation in various competitions and quizzes. Live and dynamic content is posted on social networks.
The Best RPL Goal of the Decade to commemorate our 10-year partnership is a fantastic example. Over the 2020-2021 season, supporters, experts, journalists, football players and club trainers voted for the best goal. 135 goals were included in the list of candidates for the Best RPL Goal of the Decade. More than 300,000 people participated in the voting. Eventually, Luiz Adriano was recognised as the scorer of the Best RPL Goal of the Decade.